In Brief: AIMS Executive Vice President Charles Cirtwill speaks out against government departments that buy-out civil servants with early retirement packages only to re-hire them back as expensive consultants. A spokesperson for the New Brunswick public sector union agrees saying double-dipping should be a no-no.

With hundreds of civil servants expected to lose their jobs as a result of Tuesday’s belt-tightening provincial budget, experts are saying now is the time to tighten up the rules on double-dipping.

Double-dipping is the practice of retiring from the civil service with a pension and then being hired back as a well-paid consultant.

“I hate that,” said Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

“Essentially we are hiring back expertise that we’ve invested in creating.

“This is a problem that is prevalent everywhere, and I don’t think that anyone in Canada has found a solution.”

He said he’s not calling for a ban on double-dipping. Retired civil servants are offering their expertise in the free market and should be appropriately compensated, he said.

But Cirtwill said it makes no sense to pay taxpayers’ money for expensive buyouts and early retirements and then turn around and immediately rehire people.

He warned that any civil service cuts next week should be planned carefully or the ranks of consultants will end up swelling and planned savings will be reduced.

He said there should be common sense restrictions.

“One of those things is to put terms on a buyout that says ‘If we bought you out, you can’t come back and sell us the same service for twice the price two months from now,’ ” said Cirtwill.

The New Brunswick government doesn’t track the number of retired civil servants who are rehired as consultants.

Sarah Ketcheson, spokeswoman for the Office of Human Resources, said consultants are hired by individual departments.

But Tom Mann, executive director of the NB Union of Public and Private Employees, said the practice is rampant.

“We suggested to the minister that there are many inefficiencies within the government whereby there are consultants that are being paid three and four times the amount of money it would cost to pay a government employee for services,” he said.

“There are literally hundreds of examples of those … situations. There is money within the system.”

Cirtwill said government should better manage the process of hiring consultants.

Any private business knows exactly who they are hiring and what they are paying, he said.

Kevin Gaudet, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said double-dipping is widespread.

“Too many of us know people who do that,” he said Wednesday. “They laugh about retiring, taking a pension and then getting paid.”

He said there should be better government contracting rules.

“They need to do everything they can to better protect taxpayers’ money,” said Gaudet.

“Contracting out should be a good thing for government, if it is managed properly. It is a great way to reduce costs.”

The rules for consultants should include a complete level of disclosure and proper tendering, he said.

“Hiring back someone who used to work for government and is retired may not be a bad thing, if that one person can effectively do the job that would take two young, currently employed, expensive bureaucrats to do,” said Gaudet.